Back Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Malta

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has today published a report on its fourth periodic visit to Malta, which took place from 19 to 26 May 2008, together with the response of the Maltese Government. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Maltese authorities.

In the course of the visit, the CPT examined the treatment of persons detained by the police, irregular immigrants detained under the Immigration Act and prisoners in the Corradino Correctional Facility. It also visited several wards at the Mount Carmel Hospital as well as the Fejda Programme and Jeanne Antide establishments for female minors and juveniles.

The 2008 visit report states that the majority of persons met by the CPT’s delegation made no complaints of ill-treatment by police officers. The report does however refer to one specific allegation and makes recommendations concerning the treatment of vulnerable persons in police custody, the conduct of inquiries into allegations of ill-treatment and the use of electro-shock weapons by the police. Further, the right of a person detained by the police to consult in private with a lawyer was still not in force at the time of the visit. In addition to calling for this right to be applied without any further delay, the CPT also recommends that the Maltese authorities extend this right to all criminal suspects deprived of their liberty and that it include the possibility for a lawyer to be present during police interrogations.

As regards foreign nationals detained under the Immigration Act, the report refers to a particular incident of alleged ill-treatment of detainees at Safi Barracks. It recommends that a criminal investigation be carried out every time credible allegations of ill-treatment by public officials are made by persons deprived of their liberty. Recommendations are also made to improve the material conditions, regime and health care provision in immigration detention centres.

As regards Corradino Correctional Facility, the report states that the findings of the visit were of such scope and seriousness that the CPT considered it essential to recommend that an independent and comprehensive audit of the establishment be carried out. In particular, concerns are raised about the lack of trained staff, the absence of an allocation and classification system in the prison, and the existence of informal power structures which place numerous inmates in a submissive position vis-à-vis gang-type practices and allow a considerable amount of drug trafficking to take place.

The report also criticises the material conditions in several wings of the prison and makes a number of recommendations to improve the provision of health care and to put in place formal disciplinary procedures that are properly applied. Particular concern is raised in relation to the detention in the prison of children of less than 16 years of age.

In respect of Mount Carmel Hospital, the report states that no allegations of ill-treatment of patients were received. Reference is made to the good living conditions on several wards; however, those on the Forensic, Maximum Security and Irregular Immigrants’ Wards are criticised. Several recommendations are made concerning the lack of staff resources and the use of means of physical restraint and seclusion/ “time out” rooms. The report also makes a number of comments on the draft of the new Mental Health Act.

The two institutions for female juveniles and children, Fejda Programme and Jeanne Antide, were found to offer acceptable living conditions for relatively short stays only. A number of recommendations are made in particular aimed at improving health care provision.

In their response, the Maltese authorities provide information on the steps being taken to address the issues raised by the CPT. In particular, reference is made to inquiries carried out into the allegations of ill-treatment raised in the report and to the Board of Inquiry set up to examine the situation in Corradino Correctional Facility. Information is also provided on the training and safeguards in place concerning the use of electro-shock weapons by police officers. As regards Mount Carmel Hospital, the authorities refer to the policy in place regarding seclusion and list the steps taken to improve the living conditions. Information is also provided on the situation in the Fejda Programme and Jeanne Antide establishments.

The CPT's visit report and the Maltese Government's response are available on the Committee's website:

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